The founders of our government wanted to ensure that the “upper house” of Congress, the United States Senate, would be full of esteemed individuals who could act on principle rather than worry about how their votes could affect their own job security.
Thus, it was decided that Senators would serve for six-year terms in their respective chamber, and that state legislatures, not the people themselves, would pick who would serve.
More than a century after the Constitution was adopted, it became apparent that the need for state legislatures to chose lawmakers to represent their interests in Washington was outdated — an amendment was proposed, and passed, eliminating that provision, allowing the people to chose who should serve in the Senate instead.
Concerns over the “principled” votes that Senators would have to make were lessened, and more focus was put on ensuring that the legislators in that house of Congress would have the people’s interests at heart.
An uninterrupted, six-year term remained, which kept in place some protections for Senators after that amendment passed in the early 20th century. But, as we’re now seeing that “principled” votes in the Senate are almost a thing of the past entirely, it may be time to reconsider whether Senators deserve those protections at all.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is attempting to create a “cover-up” impeachment trial that will benefit President Donald Trump, by forcing House managers to receive just 24 hours over the course of two days to make their case for removing the chief executive from office (for comparison, during the Clinton impeachment trial, House managers were given four days to make their opening statements). McConnell is also calling for no new evidence to be included in the trial, which is a travesty considering the slew of new info that Lev Parnas has recently put out.
— Katherine Clark (@RepKClark) January 21, 2020
Additionally, the rules McConnell put forward also allow for Senators during the trial, if they desire it, to not even enter into the record or consider at all the evidence that WAS produced during the House impeachment inquiry. All that’s needed for that to happen is for a majority vote to occur, which McConnell currently has.
It’s highly doubtful the Senate will vote to dismiss that evidence, but a number of Senators will undoubtedly push for and vote for it…a move that a majority of Americans soundly reject.
On the day before the impeachment trial was set to start in earnest, a CNN poll found that 51 percent of Americans think that the Senate should vote to remove Trump from office. When it came to considering new evidence, 69 percent said that additional witness testimony and other documentary information relevant to the trial should be allowed to be heard.
With that much support for new evidence in the trial to be heard, you would expect at least a majority of senators would vote in the affirmative. That may not happen, to the dismay of 7-in-10 Americans.
New CNN poll consistent with Quinnipiac Poll, WaPo-ABC poll on #ImpeachmentTrial
1. Large majority of Americans want to see witnesses testify
2. Plurality of GOP want to see witnesses testify
CNN: 48% to 44%
QP: 39% to 35%https://t.co/UE6UvqTdas
— Ryan Goodman (@rgoodlaw) January 21, 2020
What are “we the people” to do, then, when the government stops working in our interests? We should take a cue from the reformists of the early-20th century and call for reforms in this current millennia, including the possibility to remove senators from their stations through recall elections.
Recall elections are no small matters: they should only come about when people are truly upset with their lawmakers, over a single issue or a multitude of them. But there’s no reason why the people of a given state should have to “live with” a senator that, once elected, doesn’t have their interests in mind when they vote on laws or take part in special events like an impeachment trial.
A citizen-driven recall campaign, wherein a threshold signature count of 30 percent of the total number of voters who took part in the last senatorial election, should be able to force a vote on whether their senator should remain in office or not. A recall election, once those signatures have been submitted, would give voters the option of picking someone new to serve, or reaffirming their current incumbent’s place in the U.S. Senate.
Such an idea would require a Constitutional amendment, of course, but it’s not an impossible idea to achieve. Amendments curtailing senatorial power, changing how lawmakers are appointed to office, have happened before; there’s no reason why it cannot happen again.
A Senate recall could have allowed, for instance, the chance for voters in Kentucky or in Maine to remove wildly unpopular lawmakers like Mitch McConnell or Susan Collins, for example. With the recall, an alternative lawmaker could be allowed to serve out the remainder of their terms instead, with their first re-election campaign (if they choose to run again) being when the ordinarily-scheduled election would have occurred.
Top 10 Most Unpopular Senators 4th Quarter Polling (Disapprovals):
— Polling USA (@USA_Polling) January 16, 2020
Senators used to be principled individuals who sometimes didn’t vote in their constituents’ interests. Nowadays, there are very few principled lawmakers in the Senate, who still don’t vote in the interests of the people who got them there.
We might say that people have to be content with waiting for six years, to vote them out again. But in modern politics, even a year seems like a lifetime, and waiting that long might cause a lot of damage, or at the very least, a lot of disappointment for voters of a state where a “terrible” senator is from.
It would be better to allow voters to remove that senator prematurely than to force them to wait several years to do so.